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131st Bomb Wing Selects Outstanding Airmen of 2016

Col. Ken Eaves, 131st Bomb Wing Commander (left) and 131st Command Chief Master Sgt. Jessica Settle (right) recognize winners of the wing’s 2016 Outstanding Airman of the Year awards during the Missouri Air National Guard’s OAY Banquet held at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Jan. 6. From left to right, winners are: Capt. Amy Cottrell, 131st Medical Group, Company Grade Officer of the Year; Staff Sgt. Heather Campbell, 157th Air Communications Squadron, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; Senior Airman Travis Hugh, 157th ACOMS, Airman of the Year; Master Sgt. Thomas DuMont Jr., 157th Combat Operations Squadron, Senior NCO of the Year; and Master Sgt. Matthew Kuensting, 239th Combat Operations Squadron, First Sergeant of the Year. Not pictured is Field Grade Officer of the Year Maj. David Thomas, 157th COS. In subsequent competition, Campbell received the all-new Missouri Air National Guard Command Chief’s Award, and DuMont took honors as top SNCO of the year across the Missouri Air National Guard, and will advance to compete at the Air National Guard Outstanding Airman of the Year level. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

Col. Ken Eaves, 131st Bomb Wing Commander (left) and 131st Command Chief Master Sgt. Jessica Settle (right) recognize winners of the wing’s 2016 Outstanding Airman of the Year awards during the Missouri Air National Guard’s OAY Banquet held at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Jan. 6. From left to right, winners are: Capt. Amy Cottrell, 131st Medical Group, Company Grade Officer of the Year; Staff Sgt. Heather Campbell, 157th Air Communications Squadron, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; Senior Airman Travis Hugh, 157th ACOMS, Airman of the Year; Master Sgt. Thomas DuMont Jr., 157th Combat Operations Squadron, Senior NCO of the Year; and Master Sgt. Matthew Kuensting, 239th Combat Operations Squadron, First Sergeant of the Year. Not pictured is Field Grade Officer of the Year Maj. David Thomas, 157th COS. In subsequent competition, Campbell received the all-new Missouri Air National Guard Command Chief’s Award, and DuMont took honors as top SNCO of the year across the Missouri Air National Guard, and will advance to compete at the Air National Guard Outstanding Airman of the Year level. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

 

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Missouri ---  The 131st Bomb Wing recognized its top performers for 2016 at a state-wide Outstanding Airman of the Year banquet held here Jan. 6.

Those recognized are:

 Airman of the Year: Senior Airman Travis Huhn, 157th Air Communications Squadron.

Huhn deployed in 2016 to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, where he was recognized for his work to resolve more than 680 help desk tickets to enable 6,600 joint missions while maintaining 99 percent network up-time.  While deployed for more than 180 days, he was named Airman of the Month, as well as Honor Guardsman of the Quarter after he performed more than 20 official ceremonies at the base.

Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Staff Sgt. Heather Campbell 157th ACOMS.

In her role as a cyber transport technician and while deployed, Campbell expertly identified a network link failure, then worked to restore the air track for 23 C-130 missions. In doing so, she facilitated 25 air drops, with 53 tons of supplies delivered where needed.  The academic powerhouse completed her Airman Leadership School professional military education in half the time allotted to do so, with an impressive 93 percent score, while also completing her Community College of the Air Force associate’s degree and making the Dean’s list on her bachelor’s degree coursework.

Senior NCO of the Year: Master Sgt. Thomas DuMont Jr., 157th Combat Operations Squadron

As a senior air defense officer technician, DuMont was instrumental in the execution of 630 combat hours, with missions that struck 23 dynamic targets in support of coalition troops in theater. He coordinated 176 air tasking orders and monitored 372 aircraft while managing a 14-member cell during 10,000 sorties, directly aiding 2,000 counter-ISIL strikes to support the most concurrent missions flown in Air Force history.

First Sergeant of the Year: Master Sgt. Matthew Kuensting , 239th Combat Communications Squadron

In support of his squadron commander, Kuensting maintained a mission- ready force by responding to the various needs of more than 200 unit members. He orchestrated a combat dining in for the 239th that; culminated in a safe and enjoyable event that rejuvenated Airman heritage. Paying it forward, Kuensting chartered the first-of-its-kind first sergeants’ council cross-state meeting to bolster standards, and enhance mentoring and communications wing-wide.

Company Grade Officer of the Year: Capt. Amy Cottrell, 131st Medical Group

Often asked to serve in the place of the drill-status group commander between drills, Cottrell provides essential leadership and continuity to the entire 131st MDG, and is widely regarded as an outstanding technical and strategic leader. A keen competitor she has completed 5 Air Force Marathons, and represents the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard as a member and leader of Team Whiteman’s official cycling team.

Field Grade Officer of the Year: Maj. David Thomas, 157th COS

Thomas, a weapons and targeting officer, was recognized for taking care of and leading his Airmen from the front, particularly as he joined more than 30 other Jefferson Barracks-based Citizen-Airmen to build a sandbag wall around the High Ridge, Missouri, water treatment plant within the first 24 hours of flooding in the St. Louis area. He then turned around within weeks to deploy with nearly 100 others from the 157th to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to support Coalition military operations in the Middle East. 

All wing-level winners advanced to state-wide OAY boards. Winners from that competition were also recognized at the banquet. In that competition, DuMont took honors as top SNCO of the year across the Missouri Air National Guard.

Campbell also received special recognition, in the form of the first-ever Missouri Air National Guard Command Chief Award. This special recognition went to a shining star from amongst all enlisted nominees not otherwise recognized in their category, and was selected by the three Command Chief Master Sgts.: Joseph Sluder from Joint Forces Headquarters; Randy Miller from the 139th Airlift Wing; and Jessica Settle from the 131st.

“In January 2016, our Airmen activated to St. Louis to help their Missouri neighbors suffering from the floods. Then we turned around and deployed many of our Airmen to assist in the fight against ISIS,” said Col. Ken Eaves, 131st Bomb Wing commander. “That's the epitome of a Citizen-Airman.

“Our Airmen of the Year have dedicated themselves to this concept and these missions, and I am proud of that success,” Eaves added.

 

Group-level enlisted nominees were:

 Airman of the Year category:

·     Staff Sgt. Jacqueline Dudek, 131st MDG – recently promoted to NCO

·     Staff Sgt. Ivan Rivera, 131st Maintenance Group – recently promoted to NCO and now a recruiter with 131st Bomb Wing Staff

·     Senior Airman Autumn Eaves, 131st BW Staff

·     Senior Airman Travis Huhn, 157th Air Operations Group

·     Senior Airman Tommy Ngo, 239th CBCS

·     Senior Airman David Phillips, 131st Operations Group

·     Airman 1st Class Matthew Block, 131st Mission Support Group

 NCO of the Year category:

·     Tech. Sgt. Joel Parney, 131st MXG

·     Tech. Sgt. Elise Rich, 131st BW Wing Staff

·     Tech. Sgt. Brian Scheer, 13st MDG

·     Staff Sgt. Michael Aasen, 239th CBCS

·     Staff Sgt. Heather Campbell, 157th AOG

·     Staff Sgt. Kevin Hayes, 131st MSG

·     Staff Sgt. Carrie Neville, 131st OG

SNCO of the Year category:

·     Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Bemboom, 131st BW Staff

·     Senior Master Sgt. Edward Burnley, 231st Civil Engineer Squadron

·     Master Sgt. Thomas DuMont Jr, 157th AOG

·     Master Sgt. Daniel Elder, 239th CBCS

·     Master Sgt. Eric Fite, 131st MSG

·     Master Sgt. Jamie Meyer, 131st OG

·     Master Sgt Camia Goodwin, 131st MDG

·     Master Sgt. Caleb Watkins, 131st MXG

First Sergeant of the Year category:

·      Master Sgt.  Matthew Kuensting, 239th CBCS

 

A selection board reviewed wing nomination packages and conducted formal board interviews of all group-level nominees during drill Dec. 3 and 4. The panel selected the winners from a wing of more than 1,200 members, to honor those Airmen that best reflect excellence in leadership and performance, community involvement and significant self-improvement.

“Every drill, every one of our 131st Bomb Wing Airmen show up and exude excellence for the Show-Me State,” Eaves said. “I'm honored to recognize the very best of the best in our wing.”